The coal story at the 8th International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development

27th Jun 2017

Earlier this year, the World Coal Association (WCA) and the UNECE started working together when we signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further enhance our cooperation. We want to strengthen the dialogue between governments and the global coal industry in order to increase the awareness of the role low emissions coal plays in providing access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy for all.

As part of our enhanced cooperation, last week in Astana, the WCA in collaboration with the IEA Clean Coal Centre (IEACCC) and the UNECE organised a workshop as part of the Eighth International Forum on Energy for Sustainable Development.

The workshop “Best practices in High Efficiency-Low Emissions (HELE) Coal Power Generation” looked at the critical role of low emissions coal in meeting climate commitments and explored the technological innovations that are the backbone of modern coal-fired power plants. The workshop reviewed case studies of HELE power plants in Europe and Asia and explored how countries are making cleaner coal part of the Paris Agreement. It highlighted technological developments and reviewed which policy, regulatory and financial actions will be required to drive future HELE deployment.

Bakhytzhan Jaxaliev, Vice-Minister of the Ministry of Energy of the Republic of Kazakhstan welcomed the participants and talked about the role of cleaner coal in achieving Kazakhstan’s development objectives and climate commitments. The Chair of the UNECE Group of Experts on Cleaner Electricity Production from Fossil Fuels, Barry Worthington (Executive Director, US Energy Association), emphasised the strategic importance of HELE coal technologies in air quality, climate and energy security and explained the work the UNECE is doing on best practices in the deployment of the technology. A detailed overview of HELE coal combustion technologies was presented to the workshop by IEACCC’s General Manager, Andrew Mitchener.

WCA’s presentation focused on how HELE is part of the Paris Agreement, which is important given the long term future for coal. Many people assume that the Paris Agreement means the end of coal but, on the contrary, the Paris Agreement demonstrates a strong role for HELE in climate action. That’s because more than 20 countries, representing more than half of the world’s CO2 emissions, have included a role for low emission coal technology in their Paris Agreement pledges.

In that vein, a few extracts from the opening speech by the new UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova are worth highlighting -

“We must also recognise that 80% of today’s energy is fossil-based. There is no plausible scenario in which fossil’s share of energy falls below 40% by 2050, even in a two-degree scenario. Many countries, and the livelihoods of many people, depend on fossil energy. We cannot expect them to abandon their quality of life ambitions.

In light of all these factors, we must recognise that we do not have the luxury of choice in policy or technology. Every technology has an important role to play in the future energy system. Not only the obvious technologies like energy efficiency and renewables, but also advanced fossil technology, carbon capture and storage, and nuclear power. Economically rational policies must guide the deployment of these technologies in service of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Agreement […] 

If we optimise the management of the fossil system from source to use, we would make an extraordinary near-term contribution, not to mention improve energy security.”

It is clear that even as the world’s energy system changes, coal is still going to play an important role. That’s why the World Coal Association believes it is important to focus on a role for low emission coal technologies and to support their wider deployment.

To that end, we are looking forward to continuing our cooperation with the UNECE in demonstrating the role of coal in achieving universal energy access and the importance of low emission coal technologies in meeting climate goals.